Gallant leaves the question of Louis’ true affinity unanswered but clearly states that Raymond is living in and managing a different motel every time his mother visits. Raymond is always trying to establish a future in the motel industry, but “his motels seemed to die on his hands”. He is a transient presence in an industry built on transience. (Ouch.)
Language can also be used to massage social awkwardness out of a situation (so take note, the whole dying on his hands thing is a deliberate statement). As, for instance, when Marie mentions a dinner that Berthe had with a man who works in the Cleveland office of the business that employs them.
Raymond describes the man as a “widower on the executive level”. Readers understand that the man’s wife has left him, so at best the man’s divorced. But that’s “objectively the same thing”, Raymond notes. (Is it? Does anyone have figures for that?)
Marie tells Raymond’s wife later that he’s a thief too. That he stole his father’s watch. And then he lost it. Raymond’s wife doesn’t offer commentary on whether Raymond stole the watch or not. But it matters to her that Marie understand that the watch was never lost.
She corrects Marie by saying that Raymond “probably sold it to two or three different people”. That’s better than it being lost. Like being a widower is better than being divorced. Like buildings town down in Montreal are never worse than all the buildings torn down in Cleveland.